RU Releases Groundbreaking Strategic Sustainability Plan

In celebration of the university’s official release of its first Strategic Sustainability Plan this summer, we reprint this 10 June 2015 RU news release by Laura Janota, Director of Public Relations at Roosevelt.

RU SustPlan Cover

Cover of RU’s Strategic Sustainability Plan

Green is no longer just Roosevelt University’s school color. Green is now a part of the University’s institutional DNA thanks to a new five-year Strategic Sustainability Plan.

Developed by Roosevelt University students, administrators, faculty and staff, the plan positions the University as a leader in driving the most important transformation of higher education now happening, which is the greening of American colleges and universities, according to Paul Matthews, assistant vice president for campus planning and operations and one of the plan’s leading organizers.

The plan has four areas of focus: climate and energy, education and outreach, waste and natural resources and economics and governance.

Among goals, it calls for reducing energy usage by 10 percent; the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles and installation of refueling stations; expansion of the undergraduate Sustainability Studies program; connection of faculty and students across disciplines in sustainability innovation, research, educational outreach and service-learning opportunities; advancement of recycling and composting efforts by a student-led team; start-up of sustainable local food businesses at the University; expansion of community/rooftop gardening; raising awareness about water usage through a water conservation campaign; and creation of an Office of Sustainability, residing in the University’s Physical Resources division, which will manage Strategic Plan implementation, among other administrative tasks.

“This is a roadmap that documents what we have done so far and sets goals and priorities for making the University more sustainable in the future,” said Michael Bryson, professor of humanities and director of the University’s Sustainability Studies undergraduate degree program.

Since 2010, the University has been taking major steps to become greener. Highlights include: attaining green certification for more than half of all campus electricity; graduating 45 Sustainability Studies majors since 2011; creating service learning opportunities for students in sustainability with environmental organizations like Chicago Lights Urban Farm, Eden Place Nature Center, the Field Museum of Natural History and Friends of the Chicago River; recycling  100 percent of all e-waste; composting 50 percent of all food waste; restoration of significant campus grounds to prairie; and establishing community, rooftop  and other types of gardens at the University.

“People sometimes think that sustainability is just focused on building design and energy efficiency, but it is also about the kinds of academic courses we offer, the partnerships we forge in the community, as well as the practice of social justice,” said Bryson, who created a special course called The Sustainable Campus.  During the recent spring semester, 19 Roosevelt students took the course in which their major assignment was to collect base-line data for tracking the University’s progress in meeting its sustainability goals through use of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).

Assessment using STARS was one of the recommendations for the plan made by Sustainability Studies student Mary Beth Radeck, who researched the status and landscape of sustainability planning at higher education institutions across the United States as part of a recent independent study course she took with Bryson in 2014.
“I not only found that it wasn’t the norm for universities to have formal sustainability plans, but also discovered that one of the best ways to make real progress in greening a university is to assess where the institution has been and where it is going,” said Radeck. “The STARS system is a reliable tool to help Roosevelt with assessment,” she said.

Radeck facilitated group planning for Roosevelt’s new Strategic Sustainability Plan and also wrote and presented the plan that has been approved by top Roosevelt administrators and endorsed by Roosevelt’s Faculty Senate, as well as reviewed by Roosevelt’s Board of Trustees.

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